By Al Ruggero
It takes a lot of patience and perseverance to navigate through the construction along the Finch West roadway. Of course, that is because of a significant disruption caused by the building of the Finch West LRT.
The LRT is slated to be completed by the end of 2023. This 11 kilometre project is the second most significant construction project underway in the Toronto area next to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Eventually, it will run from Keele Street, where it interchanges with the subway, to Hwy 27 adjacent to Humber College and William Osler Hospital. Imagine York University, Seneca College, Humber College, Guelph Humber University, and a hospital all connected by a high order transit line that is not north-south, nor downtown Toronto. It will also connect to Toronto’s most significant employment areas, such as Emery Village and Duke Heights, offering reduced travel times for their employees.
Metrolinx is the authority that oversees the Mosaic Transit Group. This consortium is building the LRT and part of the three-P approach (Private-Public-Partnership) meant to share the burden so that taxpayers are not upfronting the entire cost of $2.5 billion.
While two of the project’s goals, once completed, are to reduce traffic congestion and improve the quality of life for commuters, these objectives are difficult to envisage at present while residents live with the impacts of construction.
Since the onset of the proposal to build and through the design stage, the Emery Village BIA staff have been engaged in constructive dialogue with Metrolinx and Mosaic to ensure that they fulfill their commitments toward community benefits. This includes upgraded streetscaping and that any ongoing issues that arise are dealt with. We’re also active participants in the monthly briefings that started in March 2019, with the Construction Liaison Committee that reports and monitors the project’s progress. Most importantly, we have brought forward to Metrolinx and Mosaic officials our business members’ voices that have been impacted by the construction fallout.
We continue to hear from our members about their concerns with congestion, lane closures, obstructive intersection work zones, the absence of street warning signs, and traffic management at intersections. We recognize the constraints faced by the constructors and the many sub-trades, utilities and suppliers involved. They have limitations to the road space they can occupy – usually the width of a lane – and have to constantly adjust and move their operations. Still, we believe more can be done to mitigate the concerns and address the congestion. Our small businesses along Finch Avenue continue to bear the brunt of the impacts while most have also dealt with the unforeseen pandemic closures and restrictions.
On a positive note, officials from Mosaic have supplied more and better signage to help direct drivers to appropriate driveway openings. And while the next six months will prove very challenging, Mosaic has committed to improving traffic management at critical intersections, including Finch Avenue at Signet Drive and Arrow Road, and at Finch and Weston Road. There are also signs that the construction is progressing following a brutal winter and the adverse employment effects of the pandemic. We are also hopeful that with the approach of spring, potholes and broken walkways will be addressed.
The Finch West LRT project mandate includes targets for employment, apprenticeships, and local supplier/service opportunities. In this respect, the jobs and business procurement opportunities have been a welcomed boon to our communities, businesses, and schools.
With the LRT completion date set for 2023, we keep our fingers crossed that the target will be met and, to turn around the old saying, we wish to see “that the light at the end of the tunnel” is indeed a train (or, more precisely, a Light Rail Vehicle) heading our way.
For more information on the Finch West LRT, visit: metrolinx.com/en/greaterregion/projects/finchwest-lrt.aspx
Or contact the Metrolinx Community Office located at 2540 Finch Avenue W at: 416-202-6500.
Project Manager, Emery Village BIA